Taking over One Week One Band This Week!

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Starting tomorrow, I’ll be taking over One Week One Band for a couple days to talk about Canadian chamber-pop group Ohbijou.

The site’s a really cool platform for music writers to swoon over bands they’re passionate about for a week. I’m so excited for the opportunity to contribute.

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WTF is Semalt.com?

Over the past few days in my Adsense, WordPress, Woopra and Google Analytics logs (on all of my sites) there has been this suspicious referrer named Semalt. Usually the link string has something that looks like a competitor comparing other sites. But then it would be silly to even consider this personal blog anybody’s competitor. After all who can be me better than me right?

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Going to the actual domain for this website brings you to a page that has nothing except a login page. There’s not even an about section to let you know what on earth they are. All the page says is “It’s Easy to Understand What’s Going on With Your Google Rankings”. Yo, I’ll tell you what’s going on sir, quit crawling my page. I’m skeptical of anything that promises better Google rankings. There are enough spam e-mails that like to sell me this every day.

 To further the weirdness, the “Login” and “Register” button is the same damn button. I’m not going to type anything in those fields. This seems like a clever phishing site for passwords. According to this website, it does work as an analytics tool but the site for processing payments is a third party one, there is no SSL security and the domain has only been around since September. I also find it suspicious that a legit company has no social media presence whatsoever, especially when it is now key to promoting web traffic.

 I write this to warn my fellow WordPressers and bloggers not to click or register for this site until there is a clearer understanding of what it is. 

Elf On The Shelf Is The World’s Most Frightening Christmas Trend

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In November, I started hearing mentions of something called “Elf on the Shelf”. I had not previously known what this was and thought it was the next growing viral video sensation. Naturally, I eventually decided to Google it.

What I found was the latest in Christmas trends, and it was frightening. How it works is there is an elf. He comes with a book that you read to your children. The story goes that Santa can’t possibly know which little kids are naughty or nice so they sent an elf to come watch them and relay back to Santa. The rules are that the elf cannot be touched or it will lose its magic. Parents are supposed to put the elf in random places around the house while the child is not looking to provide the illusion that the thing is alive and is indeed watching.

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All this might seem okay and magical but LOOK AT THE ELF. His little beady eyes are the creepiest thing. It reminds me of Slappy, the dummy from Goosebumps. He is literally looking at you from an eerie angle. On top of this you are told that he exists to watch and listen. If I saw this thing as a child moving around in my house I’d lose my mind. Not in a good way. In a HOLY SHIT HE IS GOING TO KILL ME sort of way. Because I was that sort of child.

I was a smart child. I would have figured that this thing was here to ruin my ability to be naughty. I wouldn’t be able to eat copious amounts of holiday candy or take sneak peeks at my presents. Every time I thought about getting into mischief would be questioned by this lingering elf. Ultimately, I’d get mad and want to defeat it, despite still thinking it was the scariest thing ever. Sooner or later I’d go up to it and touch it and allow it to lose its magic. Then I’d rip his head off so there would be no way it could report back to Santa. Then I’d be the winner of Christmas.

In reality, we all know Santa is not real and that parents will buy their kids presents no matter what.

The Mystery of the Random Lighter

Yesterday, I opened the cubicle in which all our mail usually lay. Inside the dark hole perched a tiny grey package. It was addressed to me, and even included my phone number. There was no exact return address. It only mentioned Shen Zhen China and there were some Chinese words I couldn’t read. I was elated, thinking that one of the packages I had ordered off Ebay had finally arrived.

I ripped open the envelope to find a mysterious object wrapped in white foam. It was steel tubular object attached to a keychain. A knob could screw off and revealed a metal rod with what looked like a screw and a tiny bit of cloth at the end. I took a whiff of the inside of the tube and it smelt of gasoline. I was very confused. This was not the camera accessory, film or dog costume I had ordered. I had no idea what it was, so I took a photo of it and turned to Twitter.

A bunch of people assumed it was a tiny flask, but within minutes my question was answered. It was a flint fire starter, something people took camping and used to start fires in case of emergency. The question still remained, “Why was it sent to me?”.

Initially, I thought it may have been my 12 Days of Holiday bullshit so I took to Twitter to ask. Cards Against Humanity replied and said it would be very obvious it was from them. I guess they wouldn’t forget to include their own branding on their items. A confusing tube that could start fires was quite a quirky object so CAH was a good guess, but not the right one. Now I must wait until I get all my other orders and see which eBay seller sent me the wrong thing.

However, I could get all the right parcels and still be left with a flint lighter from a mysterious place. We’ll have to wait and find out.

That Time We Almost Joined A Cult

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On Tuesday, after my grandpa’s wake ceremony, my grandma’s friend had suggested we go eat vegetarian food at a temple. Eating vegan/vegetarian food is a normal occurrence in Chinese culture during special occasions including deaths and their anniversaries so my entire family  thought nothing of it. We said sure, and were given the address.

When the twenty of us arrived, it was not a temple, but a corner lot with a gigantic white house. Inside we had to remove our shoes or put coverings on our footwear. There were people dressed in robes listening to a person reciting stuff and some people kneeling on the floor. At first inspection it looked like some sort of private Buddhist temple, except for what happened next.

The entire family was given forms and was pressured into signing them, including the young children. Real Buddhists don’t do this. In a Buddhist temple, it is peaceful and people come and go as they please. Our family goes to the Buddhist temple regularly, in fact there was one couple streets down from this house. Pens and papers were shoved in everybody’s faces. Why was it so important that we filled out these forms?

Instantly, me and dad thought this was kind of fishy so we refused by pretending that we had already done this once before. I actually had faint recollections that my parents and me had been involved in something similar before my sister was born and knew that if we put our names down we’d be heckled into coming back. Everybody else did fill out papers convinced it was just part of a procedure we were required to do to honour grandpa.

The rest of the family was led up the stairs to another room with wooden floors. In the middle of the room was a Buddha and its accompanying statues, much like the ones you can find in regular people’s houses. Like me, my parents and my sister did not sign the papers but we tagged along to watch what was going on.

The boys and the girls were to go through separate initiation ceremonies that involved a lot of name calling and bowing down to teh ground. There wasn’t too much mention of grandpa. Since my family wasn’t really participating, we were led to the dining area to wait. We weren’t allowed to eat until everyone was at the table. Dinner was in fact vegetarian, but it was only satisfactory. There were too many things pretending to be meat but were obviously not meat. I had better vegan food at Hogtown Vegan.  After dinner, we were supposed to finish with another chant or ceremony.  Everybody was shoved up the stairs. The four of us ran away while nobody was looking. We escaped.

What aggravated me was that they were quick to pocket grandma’s money and they also took this mourning period as an opportunity to prey on people’s beliefs in order to get new members. I know that can happen in more than one specific religion but it’s not right. I love my grandpa. However,  worshiping at a place that may be taking advantage of us is something I refused to do. The majority of us had been at the wake ceremony from 11am-7pm. We were hungry and exhausted. We arrived at this “temple” at 8pm and could not leave until 10pm. We had the funeral ceremony and burial the next morning. Whoever suggested this wasn’t thinking about us, but for the cult.

I looked up that house on Google and learnt that it was listed as a temple for organized Taoism. What is weird is that my cousin had interrogated some members and they denied that it was Taoism or a religion in general. They just said it was “the truth”. Taoists are generally proud people so that was strange. Taoists also stress “the natural way” and being humble. My aunt who also refused signing papers wanted to watch her children (who just blindly signed it) go through ceremonies, but it was not allowed. They even put a screen in front of her to block her vision when she followed everyone up to the ceremony room. At the end of the night all people over 16 were required to pay $10.  Being so forceful doesn’t seem natural to me. Maybe this was some form of organized Taoism or the Taoist thing was just an image for tax purposes (that would make the forms make sense) and this was in fact a cult.

I delved deeper into Chinese religions, secret societies and cults and found that the closest thing to what we experienced was something called Way of Former Heaven. This supposedly combines Taoism, Buddhism and Confuscianism and best matches the mismatch of what we got that day. I consider myself an atheist, but I don’t mind partaking and learning about the beliefs of others as long as nothing is forced upon me. In the above case it seemed like it was.